Iran and its proxies may target US forces in Syria in retaliation for multiple Israeli airstrikes on Iranian and Iranian-backed forces in Syria on March 30. Israel Defense Forces (IDF) conducted two airstrikes targeting a likely Iranian or proxy officer and an Iranian-backed militant facility near Damascus on March 30. Syrian media reported that the first airstrike targeted a “pro-Iranian” foreigner traveling in the vicinity of a possible Iranian air defense site, suggesting that the target was an individual of some significance to the Iranian project in Syria. CTP previously reported that the IDF likely targeted an IRGC Quds Force facility and headquarters in the same general area on February 18, indicating that senior Iranian and proxy officers are present there. Iranian leadership has previously warned that it holds the US accountable for Israeli airstrikes in Syria, and Iranian proxies have attacked US positions on several occasions in retaliation for such airstrikes, including the March 23 drone attack that killed an American contractor in northeastern Syria.
The United States cannot stabilize—or safely deprioritize—the Middle East without first stabilizing Iraq.
The stabilization of the Iraqi state remains strategically important to the United States and worthy of a concerted US policy effort.
Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and Sunni Arab tribal fighters backed by Coalition air support recaptured central Ramadi on January 9, the completion of a six-month operation. Iraqi Security Forces entered the city center on December 22.
American over-reliance on Kurdish forces as the primary ground partner in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) threatens the long-term success of the anti-ISIS campaign.
The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) reportedly recaptured the government complex in central Ramadi on December 28 after clearing ISIS-held areas south of the complex on December 26 and 27.
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The Iraq Project at the Institute for the Study of War produces detailed publications that monitor and analyze the changing security and political dynamics within Iraq. Topics include: understanding the evolving nature of Iraqi politics and Iraq’s democratic transition; evaluating Iraq’s security after U.S. forces withdraw; and analyzing the influence and behavior of regional actors in Iraq.
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Iranian security leaders have announced in recent days that they will resume enforcing the mandatory hijab law with a confrontational approach. The social deputy of the IRGC Qom Provincial Unit—Major Ali Mehdi Babaei—announced on March 18 the implementation of a new initiative—the “Let’s Enjoin Good in Our Neighborhood” plan—to enforce the hijab requirement and other regime behavioral expectations in public in Qom Province. Babaei described the plan as “neighborhood-centric” and mosque-based, suggesting that the IRGC will use the Basij Organization to implement the initiative. IRGC Operations Deputy Brigadier General Abbas Nilforoushan previously announced plans to establish “patrols for enjoining good and forbidding evil” in Qom between March 16 and Ramadan, as CTP reported. It is noteworthy that the IRGC and Basij—rather than the Law Enforcement Command (LEC)—appear to be trying to take lead on hijab enforcement. Law Enforcement Commander Brigadier General Ahmad Reza Radan stated on March 19 that the LEC will increase neighborhood patrols during Nowrouz and confront women not properly adhering to the hijab law. Radan specified that “travelers in Mazandaran Province must observe the hijab law much more than before,” indicating that his target audience was tourists—many of whom are likely from Tehran—traveling to the Caspian Sea for the Nowrouz holiday.
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ISW in the News
“The concern [over Shi’a militias] is what happens after the battle. Will there be sectarian violence?… Or will there be a relatively inclusive kind of governance and even-handed governance? If it’s the latter, that will bode well for the future. If it’s the former, these will be big problems.”
Mosul is a “very big target to start the counter-offensive with and the stakes will be pretty high to make sure that it’s successful.” Signaling the move on Mosul by U.S. was “really foolish.”